While Jeff Gordon and Joey Logano were the class of the field during Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway, Kevin Harvick was not far behind.
Capitalizing late, Harvick was able to move around Logano on a restart with 17 laps to go to take the second spot. As Gordon took the checkered flag and his third win of the season, Harvick scored his fourth-straight second-place finish at MIS.
Missing out on the win, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver was pleased with the team’s performance throughout the weekend, saying the team has other goals at this point in the season than just winning races.
"The main focus for our team has been consistency heading into the Chase to make sure we can scramble and do the things we’ve done over the last month," said Harvick. "When you have a solid day, finish it off. Those are the things we’ve been able to do.
"Obviously you want to win, but all in all we had some different goals that are as important leading into the Chase," he said.
After starting the season off strong, Harvick and his Rodney Childers-led team faced adversity, with struggles on pit road and bad luck on the track. Harvick admitted on Sunday the team had gone through period when they were "sporadic, inconsistent, fast one week, fast the next week," and would "make mistakes, have something go wrong."
Perhaps that is best illustrated by the fact that between the team’s first two wins at Phoenix and Darlington, they finished 41st, 39th, 36th, 7th, and 42nd. For many, despite his strength and speed throughout the season, the issues of consistency from the team were too much for them to be considered a favorite for the title.
That situation seemed to culminate last week at Watkins Glen International when Harvick was forced to pit road early after a crew member left lead driver weight in the car. Despite the early setback, Harvick said the team performed well and he was able to finish the day seventh.
After Sunday’s runner-up finish, Harvick pointed out the team has been working hard since the off-week in July to put the struggles and adversity behind them as they focus on running for a championship in the Chase.
"We were able to have a lot of discussions, set some goals," he said. "It’s hard to set goals when everything is brand-new. Sure you want to go out and win. But it’s been a little bit different for us to have fast cars every week and feel you’re in contention to win just about every race."
In his first season working with Childers and Stewart-Haas Racing, Harvick said the early-season success and adversity caught the driver-crew chief duo off guard and that it "took a while to get used to that."
With three races left before the Chase starts, Harvick has two wins and the team is coming together with a goal of peaking for the final push to the championship.
"Right now, it’s kind of like we get to start over," he said. "We’ve been able to fix a lot of things. But when you get to Chicago, you have to have a 10 solid weeks to win this championship."
Solid day for our @jimmyjohns team! It has been a great month on the track proud of everyone!!
If the team can function as well over the next few weeks as they did Sunday in Michigan, there is little doubt they will enter the Chase with momentum on their side and the confidence to contend for a championship.